Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Pictures on the Wall

This morning as I read my daily devotional, I was struck by the words that jumped at me. Words I have read a dozen times, that never seemed to have much effect on me.  Words I had heard at church and even read to children during Sunday School. But today those words were different. Today, God used those words to speak directly to my heart.  As I read the Scriptures I was struck by what my mind was thinking as if I was having a conversation with myself about what I was thinking...not making sense? Yeah, at first it didn't make sense to me either.  It was as if I were looking directly at myself while I spoke the words aloud.  In Deuteronomy, chapter six it is written that we are to write the Word of God "on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." Well, sure that sounds easy enough. How many times have I walked through a store here in town and saw a beautiful picture with some heartwarming scripture and thought to myself, "Yeah that would look cute in the family room." But is that really what we are to do?  Is the picture on the wall what I need? Is it going to teach my children to know Jesus? Will it remind me to read my Bible? Does my heart fill to overflowing by reading the words on the wall? Sure, it is a great picture and the words are even greater, but does that fulfill those words in Deuteronomy? Did I do as I was commanded by buying a picture and putting it on the wall?

When I began to pull apart this small portion of Scripture I was deeply convicted by what I read.  Deuteronomy 6:4-12 says,

Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!5“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.6“These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.7“You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.8“You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.9“You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
    10“Then it shall come about when the LORD your God brings you into the land which He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you, great and splendid cities which you did not build,11and houses full of all good things which you did not fill, and hewn cisterns which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant, and you eat and are satisfied,12then watch yourself, that you do not forget the LORD who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

Am I listening? I know that the Lord is God. I know the commandment to love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul and might. I know that those words are to be on my heart. But do I?  Do I teach them to my children? Am I diligent in what I am teaching them? When we are sitting around the house in the evening and there is conversation, is it about Jesus? When we are driving through town on our way to our next activity, are we talking about Jesus?  I read a devotion with my son at night and sometimes we talk about it, but many times I walk away wondering if it is just something we do. I pray God is using it in his young life, but am I diligent?

Take a moment and think about what the scriptures are that you have in your home.  Do you know them? Do you obey them? As I went through the course of my day, I thought back to that Scripture many times and thought about the seriousness of what God had spoken to my heart.  What am I doing to bind those words to my heart? God has promised great and splendid cities. But He commanded me to LOVE Him. First, last, most, only!  Oh, how quickly the Israelites forgot. We are quick to think that they were dumb to forget something so important.  But, can you recite the Scripture in your family room? Can you recall the last time you talked to the Lord about the goings on in your day?

What are the pictures on the wall of your heart? Do they reflect the same pictures as the pictures on the wall in your family room?

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The diagnosis...

As I sit in my recliner thinking over the day's events, I cannot help but smile.  I think back to five years ago and how different life was.  Five years ago tonight, I was lying in a hospital bed in ICU contemplating whether I would leave the hospital alive.  What is wrong with me? How could I be so sick? That morning, my husband, our three beautiful children, both sets of parents and countless friends and members of our church family watched as we dedicated our Grady Jerome to Jesus.  Now, here I am in a hospital room barely clenching life and no one in the medical community could explain why I was near death. What was ravaging my body? How had sickness overtaken me and I had not recognized it? Will I ever leave the hospital? What about my family? My husband? Our children?  Questions rolled through my mind like the tide rolling into shore. As these questions continued to run through my mind, I cannot describe in adequate words the peace I felt.  Complete, inexplicable, reassuring peace.  God was in this and He already knew what was wrong, why I was sick and how my life was about to change.

Over the course of ten days, God showed me so much.  He proved once again He is faithful.  He showed me the reality of my mortality and the truth that death is real.  God gave me a sense of urgency for living in the moment and loving unconditionally through the pain.  I spent time with some of the most incredible nurses in the world and was reminded of the blessing of family. I visited with doctors, nurses, infection control specialists, internists, you name the specialist, and I probably spoke to them in the course of my stay at the hospital.  Doctors from Omaha came to Kearney and visited with my internist trying to decide what was going on and why I was experiencing such rapid and significant illness.  The onset of symptoms erupted like the explosion of a shaken soda bottle.  One minute I was well and like the flip of a switch, here I was lying nearly lifeless in a hospital bed.  What was happening to my body?  I was 26 years old.  I was too young to get sick.  I was too healthy to be in ICU.  Right?

After finally discovering a blood infection and the complication of Influenza B, medication and a lot of it was to be the cure.  After one dose of several medications I was beginning to gain energy and after three days in ICU I was cleared to ''pass go'' and move up to PCU, (the progressive care unit).  I still remember sitting on the bed and smiling as they brought my food tray because I was hungry.  However, less than thirty minutes later, I was sick and had the strangest feeling like my legs were burning. Well, for anyone who has spent a significant amount of time confined to a hospital bed, you understand the fascinating and agonizing contraptions that are wrapped around your legs to guarantee proper circulation due to inactivity when one is bedridden.  Why on Earth did I suddenly feel like my legs were on fire.  After calling the nurse and upon observation of my legs, we (mostly the nurses) discovered I was having an allergic reaction to one of the medications.  I was having a reaction, which made my legs bright red as if I fell asleep in the August sunshine.    Back to the drawing board fellas...New medication was ordered and I spent the next twenty four hours hoping never to get near a fire or expose my bare legs to sunlight again, ever!  Eventually I began to feel like I might live and the doctors agreed!  People were allowed to come see me without dressing up in protective gear like we were all on an episode of Scrubs and I began to go stir crazy because I wanted to go home, sleep in my bed, have my kids climb on me and get back to my life.   After ten days in the hospital, I was given the green light to go home.  Back to my life...or so I thought.

My life is so different.  Some ways I would argue are worse.  Some I would undoubtedly agree are better.  It wasn't until May 2008 when I sat in the rheumatologist's office and received the diagnosis that would change my life forever.  Lupus.  What is that!?  Oh how much I have learned!  Life is such a journey.  And on the road of my life, this diagnosis has taken me through some winding mountain roads that I never expected to venture.  Nothing could have prepared me for the changes that would happen, for the changes that HAD to happen in order to venture through this new life, my new life.  Hand sanitizer and Lysol are now on the grocery list as often as milk and eggs.  Every illness I catch is an opportunity for me to choose faith or fear.  Each new ache is another question mark on the page of symptoms and signs of progression.  Will it take my life?  One day, yes it could.  But not today.  Today is a day I will live for the Lord.  I will make a difference for my Jesus.  I will fight for my family and I will sing for my Savior.  Five years ago, God smiled and exclaimed, "Be calm my child, I'm not finished with you yet." And as sure as I was that day, I am sure of it today.  I will live for my Lord and I will love for my Lord.  I will use the breath He puts in me to praise Him and I will use the days He gives me to proclaim His name.

I have Lupus.  Lupus don't have me.

For more information on what lupus is and how lupus affects those of us ''lupie'' survivors, search The Spoon Theory to learn more!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Five Year Plan

Remember when you were ready to graduate high school and everyone was making plans to go to college or find a job and settle into life as an 'adult' but really we were just looking for freedom from parental figures and a chance to make our own decisions...even if they were poor ones!?  I was asked by many, "What's your five year plan?" and though I knew I was going to Ju-Co and wanted to play volleyball, I hadn't thought too far beyond that.  Well.  I was not given a scholarship because a certain coach thought I was too short to play and I didn't perform well under pressure that day.  I had not applied to any other school, so my options were pretty limited.  I went and ultimately played two years, which if you are doing the math, means I went to junior college three years.  At the start of my second year of Ju-Co, I met a boy.  We were almost complete opposites, except we both loved Jesus and wanted to live our lives for Him. I didn't expect to fall in love with this boy, who was truly a man living for Christ.  I didn't expect to get married and I certainly didn't expect to be expecting our first child on our one year anniversary.  So, in answer to the question about my five year plan, well, the first five were not at all what I would have planned!!  Thinking back over the most recent five years, I wonder if a five year plan would have done any good in either case.  The past five years have been full of hopes and wishes I would have never thought possible and pain and heartache I could not explain, but would not trade a single moment for all the money in the world.

Our last five years have been so full of mountaintop experiences and dark, silent valleys. Through it all, we have seen the hand of God move and grow us in ways we can't explain and couldn't have imagined.  We have changed in ways no one would have imagined, including us. We have faced trials and triumphs, successes and sinkholes, failures and feeble moments of doubt.  So often I think of the past five years and relate to the song lyrics that say, "I say Amen, but it's still raining." I am cognizant of the truth that God could wipe away the pain and clear up the storms in my life with the blink of His majestic eye.  However, I know that He wants only good for me and doing so would only hinder my chance at glorifying Him and my chance at hearing those words, "Well done, Amber. Well done." would not be possible without the struggles and opportunities God has given me and our family to grow and succeed at glorifying my Father.

As we approach this holiday weekend, I wonder where God will take us as our lives unfold. I wonder what the next five years will bring.  I wonder many times what the next five minutes will bring! ;)  At any rate, I look forward to the work God is doing in my life and I press on toward that goal that I know God has already prepared for me in heaven.  To see His face, His sweet and gracious face!

Happy Memorial Day weekend!

Happy Memorial weekend everyone! What a blessing it is to have so much to be thankful for. Be safe and enjoy time with your family. Time for some cleaning out of old stuff and organizing of the house to welcome summer. Hope the family is up for it!!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Happy Birthday Cadyn Jo!

Three years...has it really been that long!? I remember it like it was yesterday! God has given me such an incredible adventure to live. Do I feel the pain of losing my baby girl? Every day. Not a single day goes by that I don't think of what life would be like with my precious CJ. And yet God has blessed me with children to love and devote my time to that would not be a part of my life if Cadyn were here for me to raise. God has opened my eyes in so many ways over the past three years. I do not understand and yet I trust. I don't always like it, but I am not ashamed to say that I share that dislike with my Lord everytime it rears it's sometimes ugly head! Times have been tough and our walk has not been easy but my Lord has carried me through each difficult moment. As I reflect on the last three years, I am grateful. I am sad that I do not have my baby here for my selfish reasons, yet I am so thankful she is perfect and righteous and has to feel no pain.

Life comes at you in ways you don't expect. The storms of life blow in and in a moment the warm sun has been overshadowed by the dark clouds of pain and the winds of adversity blow but the strength of my Lord has held me to the ground and kept me steadfast on the path to heaven. I am not saying life has been all roses! Far from it actually. Yet the promise of seeing my precious Cadyn has given me something to look forward to when the wind blows and the rain is pelting my face.

Are you facing the rains and winds of life? I know the weather can be such a stress for my body because of the changes it invokes when my muscles ache and my joints get stiff. But how much does the weather of my spirit influence my daily life! When I invite the Lord to walk through my day, the tornadoes of pain and fear can swirl and yet the weather in my soul is clear and beautiful. Take heart, my friend. The joy of the Lord can always bring the warmth of the Son!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Life is no fun

January 2012...where are you? I remember all those years ago sitting in school, daydreaming about where I would be when I was a 'grown-up' and had a career. Did I ever daydream I would be caring for twelve toddlers? Nope. Did I ever imagine I would have six children by the time I was 30? Not a chance! Would I have written my story differently? Better? Well, I can definitely say I would have left out a few of the painful moments, and probably would have avoided some of the mistakes, but if I were presented with the opportunity to do life over, I can not honestly say I would want to do it differently. My life has been a rollercoaster of trials and triumphs. Jubilation and tribulation. Joy and Sadness. Pain and perserverance. One thing for sure, it has not been dull. Just last week, my four year old complained before bed that he was unsatisfied with the day and was not ready for bedtime. He attributed his dissatisfaction to a lack of 'funness' and whimpered as we climbed the stairs to bed that he could not sleep without having some 'funness' first! Do I ever look back at my life dissatisfied? Do I complain to God and whimper that my life does not have enough funness? When did we get this insane idea in our heads that life is suppose to be fun? God tells us from the beginning that life is going to be hard. He promises that there will be trouble, but he reminds us that we are not alone and in this life we must remember that He and ONLY He has overcome all the worlds' troubles. Adults spend millions of dollars and countless hours trying to make life fun, trying to forget the troubles that we all must face. But why? Wouldn't it be easier and let's face it, a whole lot less work, if we all agreed that life is hard and sometimes we must deal with having absolutely zero 'funness' but that doing this life together as friends and co-travelers would bring us true joy. I need true hope, true joy; I don't need some artificial happiness any more than I need artificial sweetners. I need the real thing! I want to know that the joy in my life comes from the True Source and that no matter what happens and no matter what my troubles may be there will be triumph in the end. Everything, everyone, everywhere is set here on this earth, in motion or at rest, for the glory of God.

I heard a story on the radio today about Joni Erickson Tada. She was talking about the strength to perservere and the details of her life in which God has been present. Did you know that she trusts and believes that God was so interested in her that He was involved in the details of her life down to the color of her hair? You see, Joni is a quadrapalaegic. She was injured in a diving accident many years ago that left her in a wheelchair. The day prior to this accident she died her hair with peroxide. At the moment of the accident, her sister jumped into the water to save her life because she noticed the bright blonde color of her hair. Had she not dyed her hair the day before, her sister doesn't know that she would have noticed Joni face down in the water. Can you believe it? A quadrapalaegic woman who is so devoted to serving the Lord Jesus, she believes that God was involved in the color of her hair!! I don't know about you, but I don't think 'funness' would be on the list of words for Joni when she thinks back to that day. And yet, the God of the universe, the Lord of Lords and King of Kings, Almighty God, our Creator, the Maker of Everything had a hand in the details of Joni Erickson Tada's life from the way she would spend her life and the ministry she would have due to her challenges as a quadrapalaegic and He was interested in the color of her hair!

Life is no fun. I agree. Life is not fun. God didn't intend for it to be this way. Yet He has a plan. He loves me and He knows the details of my life. Even when I don't like the details He knows what each one is for and He knows why each one has its place in my life. My outlook on life has changed so much over the course of the past year. I have no idea where the next year will take me and I have no idea what path God will lead me on. I heard the saying just recently, I don't know what the future holds, but I know that One who holds the future. I often forget that I have no reason to worry and fret because the One holding my hand is also the One holding my future. I guess that's why it's okay for life to hold no 'funness' for me. I don't have control of the levels of 'funness' in my life and right now I'm very thankful for that.

"Just because her eyes don't tear, doesn't mean her heart don't cry.
And just because she comes off strong, doesn't mean there's nothing wrong."

God be with me as life takes its turns through the cave of No Funness...

Sunday, January 16, 2011


So, I have been thinking about this post for some time now. I kept thinking I needed to write and get it off my chest and share my heart but I often sit down in the comfort of my computer chair and I find myself over-analyzing, checking, rechecking, questioning and rewording everything I write. I am not a professional writer, though I aspire to be. I am not as articulate as I would like to be, though I would like to think I could have an intelligent conversation. I enjoy writing, though I find myself faced with wording the thoughts in my head to make sense when they come spilling out. You know those papers we had to write back in high school that would seem really easy and then once the outline and main ideas were there, the details seemed just a bit sketchy or it didn't flow just right? Maybe that was just me. Anyways. Whenever I sit down and try to write, I tend to think through the outcome of the total composition rather than writing and enjoying the experience. I love to write. Love it!!

As I think about many of the times in the past I have written, I think of the experiences I have had, dealt with, enjoyed and endured in my life. As I have embarked on a new chapter in my life, I have become more retrospective and have approached each day with a different outlook. I have begun to see each day as independent in it's own right, but connected to a larger picture much like the many colors involved in an artwork. Each color is beautiful in itself, yet combinations and mixtures bring vibrancy to the artwork as a whole. I have good days that are really, really good. I have bad days that are really, really bad. Yet I know that I am given each new day to make choices and decisions that will affect the journey through my life.

What am I babbling about, you are probably thinking...

I have been thinking a lot about the people who have been with me in each experience that comes to mind. I am humbled and honored to think of the friends and family who have been by my side through all the experiences. Most recently I think of the new friends I have made as I have begun my trek through life as a working mom. Nothing could have prepared me for the depth of relationships I would build in such a short time. I have made some of the most amazing friends whom I am thankful have been there with me as I skip, run, or cry my way through each day. Is this a secondary result of my newfound career or are the friendships the reason God placed the opportunity in front of me at this time? Many times I have questioned and analyzed my way through experiences similar to this one. I always have the reminder in the back of my mind that friends come and go, many times only staying for glimpses of the journey. Not this time, at least I don't think anyways!

I have felt an overwhelming sense of joy and thankfulness for my dear friends who have walked this journey with me. Those still walking and those who have taken a different path through life. I appreciate each friend who has impacted my life. I am grateful for you all. I am thankful for those who have come and gone and I am honored and humbled to have those of you who are still embarking on this travel experience. Thank you to each of you for the blessings you have been to me. Forever I will be honored to call you friends. Thank you for being you and helping me to continue growing and learning who I am and who I am being molded into.

Thank you friends. Each of you know who you are!!!!